This study lasting 10 years, assessed medication use via pharmacy records. Acetylcholine is a nervous system neurotransmitter, and low levels of acetylcholine have long been associated with having dementia. The “anti-cholinergic” medications being studied can have the effect of lowering acetylcholine levels.
“Older adults should be aware that many medications — including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids — have strong anticholinergic effects,” says S. Gray, PharmD, MS, leading author of the report. “And they should tell their health care providers about all their over-the-counter use. Health care providers should regularly review their older patients’ drug regimens — including over-the-counter medications — to look for chances to use fewer anticholinergic medications at lower doses.”
One idea to take away from this is that a variety of side effects that occur with medication use are not obvious at the time of their being taken. The damage can be done long after taking medication that has seemed to caused no harm. Many people take multiple medications and the possibility of adverse effects may be very difficult to assess. In so far as many problems can be addressed without relying on medication at all, these should always be given primary consideration in treatment.
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